Driving Safely Near Cyclists in Intersections and Bike Boxes in Boston

Driving Safely Near Cyclists in Intersections and Bike Boxes in Boston

With the warm weather, more cyclists are back out in Massachusetts. As a driver, you may easily see the cyclist in front of you at the intersection and give them extra room. But are you ready for the cyclist who approaches from behind? And what about all the new bike lanes?

As more cyclists return to the road, this is a good time to think about how you can travel safely near them in intersections.

Take a Closer Look at Intersections

Take a closer look at the intersections you travel through. Check the signage, traffic lines, bike lanes and other pavement markings. You may notice some of the pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly improvements communities have made since the pandemic. Certain intersections now have bright green bike boxes or bike lanes crossing intersections. This is the case in Boston, in the area of Staniford and Merrimac streets.

If you see anything new or have questions, ask your local police department or town hall. Another resource is the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual.

Then stay tuned. You may see a few more traffic signs in the near future. On April 1, 2023, a new Massachusetts law took effect, establishing that drivers must leave four feet for safety when passing cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Where to Expect Cyclists in Intersections

Think about how cyclists approach intersections. Many cyclists will use bike lanes if these are available, but under Massachusetts law, cyclists can also travel into the traffic lane with vehicles. Cyclists can ride on their own or up to two abreast.

Drivers have a responsibility to look for cyclists. Make a point to check front, back, right and left as you wait out the traffic lights. When you look back, make a point to actually look. Don’t just use your vehicle’s technology. Use your rearview mirror and turn to check your blindspot over your shoulder.

Learn About Bike Boxes

Source: Massachusetts Driver’s Manual

Certain intersections in Massachusetts now make use of the green bike boxes. These are designated spaces for cyclists to wait between cars and traffic lights at intersections. The goal is to make cyclists more visible to drivers and let them get out first when the light changes.

Cyclists can use the bike box to position themselves for left-hand turns. Cyclists who are turning right or traveling straight should stay right in the bike lane.

Cyclists may or may not use the bike boxes yet. But according to the state driver’s manual, drivers have a responsibility to stop before the green bike boxes at red lights, even if there are no cyclists out.

Where to Find Bike Boxes in Massachusetts

Bike boxes are in use in at least 20 U.S. cities, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

But they are still relatively new to many cyclists and drivers in Massachusetts.

As of September 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) had only identified 91 bike boxes in use across the state.

You can find some of these bike boxes in Brookline, Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

MassDOT also shared results from its 5-year study into the effectiveness of bike boxes. Researchers investigated traffic conditions at 11 intersections in Boston and Somerville.

While the data very was limited, researchers attributed the majority of bike crashes to motorists and bicyclists who did not comply with the bike box regulations.

Researchers reported roughly 60 percent of the bike crashes at intersections occurred when cyclists ran through red lights or drivers failed to yield when making left turns.

Another point was on right-hook crashes. Researchers only reviewed one of these crashes, but said the limited data showed bike boxes may help prevent cyclists from suffering these injuries. They also noted that 72 percent of the intersections in the study utilized “No Right Turn on Red” signs.

MassDOT expects to complete a new study on bike boxes in February 2024.

Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers – Free Legal Consultation

Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing cyclists who have been seriously injured by bicycle accidents and dooring incidents. If you have been injured, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck and learn your legal rights. We offer a free legal consultation.